October 14th 1918

2nd Lieut. Stuart Ricketts (RFA)

Stuart Ricketts has finally succumbed to wounds he suffered on August 29th, when his battery were supporting an attack east of Albert and came under enemy artillery fire.

His wounds, caused by shrapnel, were very serious, affecting his lower abdomen as well as breaking his left shoulder, upper arm and hip. He was sent to Rouen, where he suffered for 5 weeks; three operations were performed on him, but they were to no avail and he died of peritonitis on October 5th.

Amongst many heroes, Stuart was more of a hero in his life of the last six years than many. A bad attack of sciatica at Oundle left him with curvature of the spine and a short leg. In spite of much suffering he took the Woolwich exam, choosing to join the RE. This was not to be.

He spent the next five years trying to regain his physical fitness, and after many operations and the weariness of a plaster jacket he, by his great will power, became restored to health and strength. While he was ill, he studied for matriculation and the first medical, and then became a student at King’s, spending his vacation as dresser there.

After passing into the Flying Corps he was medically examined and turned down because of his heart; this was a great disappointment; however, he did not despair, and eventually was passed for the RFA. He went to France in June and was very happy over there, saying it was a grand life, but primitive.

Stuart visited us only last term and we were all pleased with his fitness and cheeriness. It is most disconcerting to find that, having suffered so much in his life already, his final months were ones of yet more pain and suffering.


May 13th 1916

Following the news of the fall of Kut on April 29th we have now heard from 2nd Lieut. Leslie de Selincourt (who, you may recall, transferred from the 7th Hants to the OBLI), who has been wounded. He has written to us from the Club of Western India, Poona.

de Selincourt L27/4/16 “I lent my valuable assistance during the battles of Feb 21st and March 8th, though unfortunately both turned out rather abject fiascos.

On the night of March 16th I was out in front of the parapet of the front line trench burying some bodies, which had lain there too long to make living next door to them enjoyable. The moon appeared from behind a cloud; an ill-mannered Turk saw me and hit me in the arm; annoyed because I didn’t drop down on my stomach and crawl home, he hit me again. Unfortunately in a more disabling place, the bullet entering my shoulder and reappearing out at the small of my back. I dropped like a stone and was unable to rise until three weeks later.

I experienced the usual sensation when hit – ‘never more pained or surprised in my life.’ Some ribs got cracked, but no vital part was touched and I have been the subject of congratulations from every doctor.

Now I am going up to Naini Tal – a very good spot in the Himalayas. Then I suppose I go back to the Gulf.”

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Lieut. Leslie Murray (RNAS) was also involved in the efforts to relieve Kut and he too is now in hospital:

3/5/16 “I expect you will be sorry to hear I have arrived at the Funk Hole at Buzra, otherwise known as the British General Hospital. I had been feeling pretty rotten since last Thursday (April 27th) and on Friday I discovered I had a temp of 100.3 degree, so I retired to bed altogether. The heat in my tent was almost unbearable, the only breeze was a hot draught.

The next day I was just as bad, so, as our Naval Doctor has gone down with dysentery, I was sent along to one of the Field Hospitals close by. It was very hot there and the biting flies were most irritating, as I had not got the energy to drive them out of my mosquito net.

It was in the afternoon that I got the news of the fall of Kut, which was rather depressing, although most of us were fairly certain that they could not hold out much longer and it seemed fairly obvious that under the present conditions it would not be possible to get through, because we had a very difficult position to attack.

The Turks were very strongly entrenched at Sannaiat, and with marsh on one side and river on the other, it would have required a much larger division than we had got at the time, to get through.

Of course, several attacks were made on the position, but whenever they got through, they were driven back. We expected Kut to surrender any time, as we knew we could not feed them from the air much longer. Neither the machines or the pilots could stand it…

I suppose we prolonged the agony for four or five days… By the way, the things we usually dropped were ‘atta’ (a native flour), sugar and occasionally chocolate. I usually took 200 or 250 lbs and an observer; the food was placed inside two strong sacks, four 50 lbs sacks being placed on a specially devised bomb rack under the engine or between the floats, the fifth bag was put in the observer’s seat to balance the back of the machine and was heaved overboard by him.”


July 10th 1915

The next edition of ‘The Draconian’ is due to be published in August and we are grateful for news from Old Dragons at their Public Schools. Our Oundle School correspondent has contributed a good piece on the war work they have been doing this term:

“It is an ideal school for Dragons, as it is run on very much the same lines as the OPS, namely liberty and open air life. This term we have been doing very strenuous work, as we have taken advantage of the fact that we have the best school workshops in England, and we have been making munitions of war.

A firm in Peterborough is supplying us with the rough castings, which we finish and return to them to be tested. We started by doing various brass pieces of aeroplane engines and also mine-heads; these required turning on the lathes, drilling, planning and plenty of filing which needs some patience! Of course everything has to be done very accurately, the usual standard being that they should be correct to 1/2000th of an inch, and after the parts have been worked they are tested by the more experienced boys by means of micrometer screw gauges.

The firm was very pleased with the first lot of work which we returned and have now sent still more as the demand is so great at the moment, and they have also promised us more difficult and varied work in the future. It is possible to have 30 boys working in the workshops at the same time, and the work has been organised by forms, each form spending one whole day (7-8 hrs) at it each week…

Owing to the enormous demand we have now started working in double shifts of six hours each, so that the shops are being used for 12 hours each day, and the work is to be continued during the first month of the holidays by about 60 boys who have volunteered to stay, and are to be under military control…

I have written all this thinking that you might be interested to know how we at Oundle (and some other Public Schools which have now, I believe, followed our example), are doing some little active work, small as it may seem in comparison to the needs, for the Country.”

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We have received news from 2nd Lieutenant Robert Rawlinson, 2nd Border Regt., 20th Brigade, 7th Division, BEF, dated June 30th 1915.

Robert Rawlinson

2nd Lieut. Robert Rawlinson

“We came into the trenches on Sunday afternoon and all was quiet till breakfast time on Monday morning, when they dropped a few High Explosive (H. Ex.) Shells into our front line…

About 1.30 p.m. they started again and got the range perfectly. One officer and three men were blown to nothing; the shell pitched in the dug-out and all we found was the officer’s head and one shoulder; nothing at all of the others. Another officer lost his nerve and a third was wounded…

Tuesday was fairly peaceful till the early afternoon, when they shelled the next regiment on our right for a time; then all was quiet again till 5.45 p.m. when a fiendish rifle and machine-gun fire was opened on our right. We had sent up a couple of mines and had caught the Germans bolting. In less than half a minute the air was full of shells, shrapnel and rifle-fire. They shelled our lines too. I’ve never heard such a row in all my life; the H. Ex. Shells are most frightfully demoralising. One pitched with a deafening crash 15 yards to the right of my dug-out. Two hailstorms of shrapnel bullets splattered all round me when I was going along a communications trench and a bit of H. Ex. Shell missed my head by a foot. The old hands said that it was really bad shelling.

We didn’t lose many, but I saw two ghastly sights in it all. It gets on my nerves! I didn’t mind the sniping and shrapnel, but I can’t stand the H. Ex. shells. You don’t stand a chance with them…

The gunners think that the Huns are running short of shells; it has been very noticeable in the last ten days, so they say, and for every shell they send over they get about four back from us or the French.”